Ben’s Diary –part #1 – Kenya, Africa

Hi, my name is Ben Dawson, known as Big Ben (big air) and I am one of the luckiest people on the planet. In the coming months I am going to share some of the amazing things that have and will continue to happen to me in my crazy charmed life as a travelling kitesurfer.

Three years ago I gave up my life in an office in the UK, I was running my own graphic design business, getting fat and only kitesurfing at weekends and holidays. I started kiting in 2000 and have been hopelessly addicted ever since.


Watching the big oak tree branches bend in the strong wind from the window of my studio was too much for me day in day out, so I decided to make a difference to my life, Ebay all my toys and throw everything at the sport which has now given me so much! I was 33, had a nice little house with chickens, a membership at the local golf club, two fast cars and all my friends were either married with kids or getting divorced again. Just a couple of days ago I was kitesurfing in a northern Kenyan paradise and two girls were whooping, yelping and swinging their bikini bottoms around their heads as I launched big old school airs over them, and the fastest mode of transport I now own is my flip flops! Things have changed considerably!


I now run advanced kitesurf instructor courses at Che Shale near Malindi in Kenya, I teach art to the local tribes school kids and I make furniture and backgammon boards out of mango wood for sale to wealthy ex pats.


One of the most rewarding things about kitesurfing is the great people you meet in fabulous locations, it is unlikely that even in the most inaccessible and remote spot that you won’t bump into a fellow kiter you know from the other side of the planet.
That said all this travel and lugging your kit all over the world needs money, the age old work life balancing act. I have met kiters who work like crazy for 6 or 8 months, save every cent then go for a 4 month trip. Others get their 2weeks twice a year and then there are the sponsored pros and the trustafarians (the real lucky ones). These guys never seem to have to worry about anything apart from ripping on the water.


My approach was to become a professional instructor and live and work in a place, get to know it for the season then get someone to fly you to the next job. For nearly three years I have been teaching full time and have taught more than 3000 students, learnt five languages, kited in 20 plus countries and have met friends for life all over. I regret only the friends a life like this means you have to leave behind.


On the rare occasion I walk into my local village pub in the UK I get the usual welcome of “hello mate, beer”? Not the “where have you been for a year and a half”? After loading up on warm flat beer and talk of who’s tractor is more powerful I am ready to kiss the family adios and get somewhere hot and windy again!


Having changed my life for 180 and being unrestricted in my travel plans I wanted to choose the gear that I would really love to ride and could relay on. I have long ago heard good words about boards from ABoards Kiteboarding (www.aboards.eu) and was I was glad when I had the opportunity to get to know the guys. People have been awesome and their boards are insanely good! Never before have I had a couple of boards that load you with enormous pop and attract more attention on and off the water as the X and Z. These boards are the nuts!


So with my unfaltering enthusiasm for the sport and the travel I ride I will endeavor to bring you regular diary entries from my travels.
If you are on the verge of a life change, I can highly recommend it! You won’t regret it for a minute.

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April 2009

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